The art of dialogue
THE ART OF DIALOGUE
When was the last time you had a “good talk” with someone about something important?
In my line of work, I observe people having these “good talks” quite frequently. I am in a unique position in that I have sat in more of these talks than many of you reading this blog. I get to see how different people approach things, and provide them with support and skills to get better at having these conversations.
I have observed a lot recently that people having these chats just talk AT the other person.
To be clear, it would be very weird if you did no talking at all. But it's only slightly less weird when you do all the talking, and the other person merely sits there as a passive participant in the conversation.
It makes sense that we want to just talk - we have something to say after all, and it gets the exchange over so we can get on with our “real work”*. The problem is that it’s ineffective. You might have the talk but the chance of good outcomes from it are a lot less if the other person doesn’t participate.
How do you remedy it?
1 Back up the bus and remember WHY you are having the conversation. If it’s to bring about some change or awareness, that’s only going to happen through a two-way dialogue, not a one-way sermon. Start with the end in mind and figure out the best approach to get that. For example if it’s to improve performance you will have more luck in doing this if you understand their thinking than if you just tell them to improve.
2 Get them talking! As a simple rule, remember to get them talking. A great way of doing this is to ask questions. Obviously this depends on the situation, but use these as a guide:
what do you think went well?
tell me about your thinking here
can you show me what your process is about….
what’s your take on…..
3 Observe yourself as you go. The underlying skill of dialogue. Underlying this is the skill of dialogue. Dialogue comes from the Greek word ‘dialogos’. Logos means ‘the word’ or in this case, ‘the meaning of the word’. Dia means ‘through’. So, you can see that a dialogue will make possible a flow of meaning through words. A dialogue has the benefit of bringing about understanding of other people’s thinking, opinions, assumptions. It is based on both people talking, not one talking and one passively listening.
To have a good dialogue you need two things - 1. curiosity, and 2. assuming positive intent. Assume that the other person has good intent behind their actions, even if it doesn't seem that way to you. Above all, be curious. Curiosity is the opposite of judging. It’s very difficult to judge when you have a curious mindset, it also encourages you to ask lots of questions.
So next time you’re going to have a “good talk” with someone, think about how to have a “good dialogue” instead!
*This is our real work :-)